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John Stuart Mill And Utilitarianism Essay

1586 words - 7 pages

A major problem in society John Stuart Mill highlights is that there is not a set standard for judging what makes something right or wrong. Clearing these principles is one of the fundamental steps for consensus on moral thinking. Mill believes that what makes something right or wrong is based on whether it is thought of as “good”. However, this only further raises the question on what is considered good. Mill purposes the goodness as a principle of utility, otherwise known as greatest happiness principle. Whatever brings about the most happiness is what is the most good. While others argue that natural instincts disprove the principle of utility as well as any other standard on morals, Mill ...view middle of the document...

In addition, he believes those best capable of deciphering between a higher pleasure and lower pleasures are a people with lots of experience. This differentiation on levels of pleasure is opposed with the argument that the experiences being compared are fundamentally very different and therefore invalid to make. For example, the pleasure from eating chocolate is dramatically different than the pleasure gained from reading a profound book. Although each could be very pleasurable in its own category, relating the two is like comparing apples and oranges. This is not only illogical but it can also cheapen certain pleasures.
In addition, Mill confronts the objection that most virtuous people in history have abandoned and sacrificed their happiness. Mill does not deny virtuous people sacrificing their happiness, however, he states that the end goal is to bring happiness to others. Therefore virtuous actions of individuals holds Mill’s principal of utility in which happiness of society takes precedent. In addition, Mill further argues that being a virtuous person is one of the highest forms of happiness because then one has serenity. In the end, Mill believes the only requirement morality truly depends on is happiness. The only thing that people desire throughout all their actions is to be happy. Mill believes that things such as virtue are only a form of happiness. In fact he describes happiness as the larger main goal with different compartments underlying.
Furthermore, Mill claims that justice is also based off of the principal of utility. Often people seek justice when they have seen a wrong done either on another individual or society, showing that people are worried about the general interest of a society. In addition, typically when injustice occurs there are victims or groups of victims that suffers from the injustice. This happens when their rights have been infringed upon. Mill sees rights not as a separate entity from utility. Rights represent the establishment on which further happiness can be fulfilled because they are required for society to thrive and prosper. Therefore, protecting individual rights such as the case when trying to seek justice is the responsibility of the entire society. Mill claims that because rights are so fundamental for happiness, it is rare to find a situation where violating rights is required for the total happiness. However, if need be rights can be violated because total happiness of society is the final and only criteria for deciding whether something is right or wrong.
Mill’s focus on the happiness of society takes away from the individual. The character or morality of a person is not taken into consideration when looking at a task. Mill takes a very impersonal approach when judging morality. Actions are observed separate from those who perform them. In addition, the person’s purpose of doing the action is not concentrated on. The only factor that goes into the whether something is right or wrong depends...

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